August 1, 2011

Obama’s hollow claim of commitment to Israel’s security

Is President Barack Obama committed to Israel’s security? Reassuring bromides to that effect in his recent speeches are nullified by specific statements that spell out dangerous Israeli concessions and disregard for Israeli vital interests. Worse, the administration’s wider Middle East policies further denude those commitments of meaning.

Thus, when Obama said Israel must have secure, recognized borders “different than the one that existed on June 4, 1967,” many missed the point that this means little, when the new borders are to be “based on the 1967 lines, with mutually agreed swaps” and therefore be virtually indistinguishable from those lines. Indeed, with Palestinians unlikely to agree to any swaps, Obama gave the Palestinians a veto over any continued Israel presence beyond the pre-1967 lines.

Moreover, Obama’s unprecedented call for a Palestinian state to have “permanent Palestinian borders with… Jordan” would require Israel ceding the Jordan Valley, whose retention successive Israeli governments have regarded as vital– another first for a US president.

Obama has also become the first US president to suggest that issues of “territory and security” be agreed upon first, before proceeding to negotiations on all other matters, including Jerusalem and Palestinian refugees and their millions of descendants.

Upholding Israel’s basic security would also mean repudiating the repatriation of the refugees and their descendants. Bush did so in his May 2004 letter; Obama has not. On the contrary, he has supported the so-called Saudi peace plan, which demands not only a return to the 1967 lines, but also the return of all refugees and their descendants.

In May, Obama reiterated that the US “will hold the Palestinians accountable for their actions and their rhetoric.”

But he never has – nor does he now.

When, in August 2009, Fatah held a conference in Bethlehem, reaffirming its refusal to accept Israel’s existence as a Jewish state, glorifying terrorists, insisting on the so-called ‘right of return,’ and rejecting an end of claims in any future peace agreement, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton astonishingly claimed that the conference showed “a broad consensus supporting negotiations with Israel and the two-state solution.”

When in 2010, the PA named a Ramallah square after terrorist Dalal Mughrabi, Clinton falsely claimed that this ceremony was initiated by a “Hamas-run municipality.”

Refusing to identify the PA as responsible, Obama has not penalized it.

INDEED, FAR from holding Palestinians accountable, Obama has consistently rewarded them, increasing aid to almost $1 billion per year. A Palestinian Media Watch report just presented to the US Congress documents that, in May 2011 alone, the PA paid $5,207,000 in salaries to Palestinians in Israeli jails, including blood-soaked terrorists. Last year the US provided $225 million to the general Palestinian budget from which these salaries are paid.

If Obama was genuine about holding the PA accountable, he would be demanding the disbanding of Fatah’s own Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades – a US- recognized terrorist group. He would demand the abrogation of the PA’s unity agreement with Hamas (which calls for a genocide of Jews) as a precondition of any future talks. He has done neither.

It is also difficult to imagine what conception of American and Israeli security interests led Obama in January to ditch Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak and call for political “transition… now” when protests erupted in Cairo. Still less clear is why his administration spoke immediately of involving “non-secular actors” – a clear allusion to the Muslim Brotherhood – given its virulent hostility to the US and Israel. Now, Obama has legitimized the Brotherhood by initiating contacts with it.

THE NET result is that Egypt is on the road from lukewarm ally and peace-maker to a dependable enemy – one to which Obama has announced the sale of 125 state-of-the-art M1A1 Abrams tanks. It is also disturbing that Obama has not pressured Egypt to close its Gaza border at Rafah, whose recent opening has enabled the flow of weaponry into Hamas-run Gaza.

For a year, Obama prohibited any new US sanctions to stop Iran developing nuclear weapons – a looming existential threat to both Israel and the US. Indeed, further measures which must be taken to stop Iran is precisely what Obama left untouched in his recent speeches.

Thus Obama’s words and deeds not only fail to match his stated commitment to Israel’s security – they negate it.

Morton A. Klein is National President of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA). Dr. Daniel Mandel is Director of the ZOA’s Center for Middle East Policy and author of H.V. Evatt & the Establishment of Israel (London: Routledge, 2004).